More Heavy Weaponry for Syrian Rebels?

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President Obama would do well to focus on far more strategically important concerns to the United States, such as stopping the world’s biggest sponsor of terror, Iran, from acquiring nuclear weapons by whatever means are necessary, and dealing effectively with a resurgent Russia.

by :

President Obama is considering ramping up military support to the Syrian rebels, who are increasingly dominated by jihadists. American anti-tank missiles have already appeared in videos in the hands of rebel forces. According to an April 21st report in Time Magazine, the White House is now considering sending the rebels shoulder-fired surface-to-air anti-aircraft missiles known as manpads. In the wrong hands, such missiles could be used to take out commercial aircraft.

Senator John McCain is pushing the Obama administration to take that risk. To combat the Assad regime’s use of barrel bombs dropped on civilian populations from government helicopters, McCain said in a March interview with Time Magazine that he was “willing to take the risk of a manpad, the risk of them falling into the wrong hands.”

McCain’s willingness to take the risk of anti-aircraft missiles getting into the wrong hands is wrong-headed for several reasons.  The most obvious reason is the blowback the United States and its allies will suffer when jihadists fighting in Syria take the weapons they have looted from the so-called “moderate” rebels and use them against us. Nearly half of the rebel fighters are “jihadists or hardline Islamists,” according to a summary by The Telegraph of a report the IHS Jane’s defense consultancy group issued last year. And they are the best trained and equipped forces amongst the Syrian opposition.

Al Qaeda-linked groups have set up training camps in Syria, which they are using to prepare foreign jihadists for their return from Syria to spread their attacks more widely.  This includes jihadists from Western countries such as the Rayat Al-Tawheed group, the British jihadist faction in Syria, that has posted an image of the White House with the caption “Wait a while there will come to you mounts carrying lions in shining armour battalions followed by battalions.” Put weapons capable of shooting down commercial aircraft in the hands of these jihadists and we won’t have to wait awhile before reaping the consequences.

Another reason not to pour such weapons into the Syrian conflict at this stage is that we are way too late to make any material difference in the eventual outcome. Assad is winning the war slowly but surely, with help from Iran, Hezbollah and Russia. The anti-aircraft missiles may have a marginal impact in slowing Assad’s offense down further in some locations. However, they will not be able to completely stop the barrel bombs and other lethal weapons Assad is using with such success against the opposition.

As the intelligence and security news service DEBKAfile explained:

“The newly-armed rebels have gained not much more than the capacity to hold on to their present lines for a while longer. But ultimately, they cannot prevent the combined weight of the Syria army, Hizballah and Iraqi Shiite Iraqis, who continue to stream into Syria, breaking through those lines.”

Vladimir Putin will also be only too happy to further arm the Assad regime and counter anything the U.S. might be sending, if for no other reason than to embarrass Obama.

Read more at Front Page

Also see:

Top Al Qaeda commander relocates to Syria

Sanafi al NasrFox News, By Catherine Herridge:

A member of Al Qaeda’s senior leadership, Sanafi al Nasr, has relocated to Syria, where he is living openly and publicly courts his followers on twitter, according to counter-terrorism analysts and social media messages.

“This is a guy who fought with Al Qaeda of the Arabian Peninsula. He’s a spokesman for the Nusra Front. He’s connected, if not a planner, for the Al Qaeda core. This demonstrates the integration of Al Qaeda and all its levels,”  Jonathan Schanzer, Vice President for Research at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies said.  “And the fact that it’s (Al Qaeda leadership) now seeking out Syria as a core area of operations, this explains a lot about, I think, the new direction of Al Qaeda today.”

While Nasr is not a household name, his pedigree is well established, according to counter-terrorism analysts, who say he is the third cousin of Usama bin Laden and almost all of his six brothers have fought alongside the Al Qaeda network. At least one of his brothers was held at Guantanamo Bay.

The Saudi, who is on that nation’s most wanted list, was first identified by the Long War Journal as relocating to Syria, and as a member of Al Qaeda’s so-called Victory Committee, which sets policy and long term strategy for the network.

“This is a sort of policy planning group for Al Qaeda,”  Schanzer said of the Victory Committee, adding, “These are people who are trying to think about what happens next, how to plan for the future.”

Nasr’s emergence is seen as another indicator that the network is sending members of its senior or “core” leadership to Syria to build alliances with other radical groups, and thereby extending the brand and reach of the senior leadership, which is traditionally based in Pakistan.

In recent congressional testimony, the head of the national  counter-terrorism center, Matt Olsen, told Congress that Al Qaeda is making a significant play for Syria with its operatives and its cash.

“Syria has become the pre-eminent location for Al Qaeda-aligned groups to recruit and to train, and to equip what is now a growing number of extremists some of whom seek to conduct external attacks,”  Olsen told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in early March.

Nasr has coordinated with other senior “core” Al Qaeda members inside Syria, including Abu Khalid al Suri until al Suri’s recent death.

“Al Qaeda and terrorist networks in general – international terrorist networks – will go, they’ll follow the path of least resistance,  said Fox News military analyst Ralph Peters. “We’ve seen them moving into Syria in significant numbers. It tells me that they actually feel not only safer there, but that they have more flexibility there than they do in Pakistan.”

Nasr’s move to Syria, according to some analysts, was by design and it suggests that the traditional view of Al Qaeda, with its leadership based in Pakistan, is at the very least outdated or was wrong to begin with.

“The idea that we were hearing that Al Qaeda was decimated, or that it was destroyed because Usama bin Laden was killed, or because some of the senior operatives were wrapped up, it was absolutely not true,”  Schanzer said.  “This guy demonstrates the fact that people who’ve been fighting for affiliate groups, multiple affiliate groups, that can still be a leader on the battlefield in an area that seems to be apparently far-field from the core, and still seems to be working with the core.”

Sally Persons contributed to this report

Catherine Herridge is an award-winning Chief Intelligence correspondent for FOX News Channel (FNC) based in Washington, D.C. She covers intelligence, the Justice Department and the Department of Homeland Security. Herridge joined FNC in 1996 as a London-based correspondent.

The Red Line and the Rat Line

Seymour M. Hersh on Obama, Erdoğan and the Syrian rebels:

In 2011 Barack Obama led an allied military intervention in Libya without consulting the US Congress. Last August, after the sarin attack on the Damascus suburb of Ghouta, he was ready to launch an allied air strike, this time to punish the Syrian government for allegedly crossing the ‘red line’ he had set in 2012 on the use of chemical weapons. Then with less than two days to go before the planned strike, he announced that he would seek congressional approval for the intervention. The strike was postponed as Congress prepared for hearings, and subsequently cancelled when Obama accepted Assad’s offer to relinquish his chemical arsenal in a deal brokered by Russia. Why did Obama delay and then relent on Syria when he was not shy about rushing into Libya? The answer lies in a clash between those in the administration who were committed to enforcing the red line, and military leaders who thought that going to war was both unjustified and potentially disastrous.

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The full extent of US co-operation with Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Qatar in assisting the rebel opposition in Syria has yet to come to light. The Obama administration has never publicly admitted to its role in creating what the CIA calls a ‘rat line’, a back channel highway into Syria. The rat line, authorised in early 2012, was used to funnel weapons and ammunition from Libya via southern Turkey and across the Syrian border to the opposition. Many of those in Syria who ultimately received the weapons were jihadists, some of them affiliated with al-Qaida. (The DNI spokesperson said: ‘The idea that the United States was providing weapons from Libya to anyone is false.’)

In January, the Senate Intelligence Committee released a report on the assault by a local militia in September 2012 on the American consulate and a nearby undercover CIA facility in Benghazi, which resulted in the death of the US ambassador, Christopher Stevens, and three others. The report’s criticism of the State Department for not providing adequate security at the consulate, and of the intelligence community for not alerting the US military to the presence of a CIA outpost in the area, received front-page coverage and revived animosities in Washington, with Republicans accusing Obama and Hillary Clinton of a cover-up. A highly classified annex to the report, not made public, described a secret agreement reached in early 2012 between the Obama and Erdoğan administrations. It pertained to the rat line. By the terms of the agreement, funding came from Turkey, as well as Saudi Arabia and Qatar; the CIA, with the support of MI6, was responsible for getting arms from Gaddafi’s arsenals into Syria. A number of front companies were set up in Libya, some under the cover of Australian entities. Retired American soldiers, who didn’t always know who was really employing them, were hired to manage procurement and shipping. The operation was run by David Petraeus, the CIA director who would soon resign when it became known he was having an affair with his biographer. (A spokesperson for Petraeus denied the operation ever took place.)

The operation had not been disclosed at the time it was set up to the congressional intelligence committees and the congressional leadership, as required by law since the 1970s. The involvement of MI6 enabled the CIA to evade the law by classifying the mission as a liaison operation. The former intelligence official explained that for years there has been a recognised exception in the law that permits the CIA not to report liaison activity to Congress, which would otherwise be owed a finding. (All proposed CIA covert operations must be described in a written document, known as a ‘finding’, submitted to the senior leadership of Congress for approval.) Distribution of the annex was limited to the staff aides who wrote the report and to the eight ranking members of Congress – the Democratic and Republican leaders of the House and Senate, and the Democratic and Republicans leaders on the House and Senate intelligence committees. This hardly constituted a genuine attempt at oversight: the eight leaders are not known to gather together to raise questions or discuss the secret information they receive.

The annex didn’t tell the whole story of what happened in Benghazi before the attack, nor did it explain why the American consulate was attacked. ‘The consulate’s only mission was to provide cover for the moving of arms,’ the former intelligence official, who has read the annex, said. ‘It had no real political role.’

Washington abruptly ended the CIA’s role in the transfer of arms from Libya after the attack on the consulate, but the rat line kept going. ‘The United States was no longer in control of what the Turks were relaying to the jihadists,’ the former intelligence official said. Within weeks, as many as forty portable surface-to-air missile launchers, commonly known as manpads, were in the hands of Syrian rebels. On 28 November 2012, Joby Warrick of the Washington Post reported that the previous day rebels near Aleppo had used what was almost certainly a manpad to shoot down a Syrian transport helicopter. ‘The Obama administration,’ Warrick wrote, ‘has steadfastly opposed arming Syrian opposition forces with such missiles, warning that the weapons could fall into the hands of terrorists and be used to shoot down commercial aircraft.’ Two Middle Eastern intelligence officials fingered Qatar as the source, and a former US intelligence analyst speculated that the manpads could have been obtained from Syrian military outposts overrun by the rebels. There was no indication that the rebels’ possession of manpads was likely the unintended consequence of a covert US programme that was no longer under US control.

By the end of 2012, it was believed throughout the American intelligence community that the rebels were losing the war. ‘Erdoğan was pissed,’ the former intelligence official said, ‘and felt he was left hanging on the vine. It was his money and the cut-off was seen as a betrayal.’ In spring 2013 US intelligence learned that the Turkish government – through elements of the MIT, its national intelligence agency, and the Gendarmerie, a militarised law-enforcement organisation – was working directly with al-Nusra and its allies to develop a chemical warfare capability. ‘The MIT was running the political liaison with the rebels, and the Gendarmerie handled military logistics, on-the-scene advice and training – including training in chemical warfare,’ the former intelligence official said. ‘Stepping up Turkey’s role in spring 2013 was seen as the key to its problems there. Erdoğan knew that if he stopped his support of the jihadists it would be all over. The Saudis could not support the war because of logistics – the distances involved and the difficulty of moving weapons and supplies. Erdoğan’s hope was to instigate an event that would force the US to cross the red line. But Obama didn’t respond in March and April.’

There was no public sign of discord when Erdoğan and Obama met on 16 May 2013 at the White House. At a later press conference Obama said that they had agreed that Assad ‘needs to go’. Asked whether he thought Syria had crossed the red line, Obama acknowledged that there was evidence such weapons had been used, but added, ‘it is important for us to make sure that we’re able to get more specific information about what exactly is happening there.’ The red line was still intact.

An American foreign policy expert who speaks regularly with officials in Washington and Ankara told me about a working dinner Obama held for Erdoğan during his May visit. The meal was dominated by the Turks’ insistence that Syria had crossed the red line and their complaints that Obama was reluctant to do anything about it. Obama was accompanied by John Kerry and Tom Donilon, the national security adviser who would soon leave the job. Erdoğan was joined by Ahmet Davutoğlu, Turkey’s foreign minister, and Hakan Fidan, the head of the MIT. Fidan is known to be fiercely loyal to Erdoğan, and has been seen as a consistent backer of the radical rebel opposition in Syria.

 Sitting around the table (left to right): Ahmet Davutoglu (Turkish FM)–back of head–,Tayyip Erdogan, Hakan Fidan, John Kerry, Barack Obama, (possibly Hilary Clinton), Tom Donilon.

Sitting around the table (left to right): Ahmet Davutoglu (Turkish FM)–back of head–,Tayyip Erdogan, Hakan Fidan, John Kerry, Barack Obama, (possibly Hilary Clinton), Tom Donilon.

The foreign policy expert told me that the account he heard originated with Donilon. (It was later corroborated by a former US official, who learned of it from a senior Turkish diplomat.) According to the expert, Erdoğan had sought the meeting to demonstrate to Obama that the red line had been crossed, and had brought Fidan along to state the case. When Erdoğan tried to draw Fidan into the conversation, and Fidan began speaking, Obama cut him off and said: ‘We know.’ Erdoğan tried to bring Fidan in a second time, and Obama again cut him off and said: ‘We know.’ At that point, an exasperated Erdoğan said, ‘But your red line has been crossed!’ and, the expert told me, ‘Donilon said Erdoğan “fucking waved his finger at the president inside the White House”.’ Obama then pointed at Fidan and said: ‘We know what you’re doing with the radicals in Syria.’ (Donilon, who joined the Council on Foreign Relations last July, didn’t respond to questions about this story. The Turkish Foreign Ministry didn’t respond to questions about the dinner. A spokesperson for the National Security Council confirmed that the dinner took place and provided a photograph showing Obama, Kerry, Donilon, Erdoğan, Fidan and Davutoğlu sitting at a table. ‘Beyond that,’ she said, ‘I’m not going to read out the details of their discussions.’)

Read more at London Review of Books

Walid Shoebat has some interesting observations on this here: CIA Was Involved In Benghazi Attack

Turkey’s New Jihad on Christian Armenians

Turkeys-Christians-are-a-tiny-minority.by :

Far from being repentant of the Armenian Genocide, Turkey, under the leadership of Prime Minister Erdogan, is again targeting Armenians; is again causing their death and dislocation.

In the early morning hours of March 21, al-Qaeda linked Islamic jihadis crossed into Syrian territory from the Turkish border and launched a jihad on the Christian/Armenian town of Kessab.   Among other thing, “Snipers targeted the civilian population and launched mortar attacks on the town and the surrounding villages.”  Reportedly eighty people were killed.

The jihadis later made a video touring the devastated town; no translation is needed, as the main phrase shouted throughout is Islam’s triumphant war cry, “Allahu Akbar” (or, according to Sen. John McCain’s translation, “thank God”).

Eyewitnesses say the jihadis crossed the Turkish border into Syria, “openly passing through Turkish military barracks. According to Turkish media reports, the attackers carried their injured back to Turkey for treatment in the town of Yayladagi.”

About two-thousand Armenians were evacuated to safer areas in neighboring Basit and Latakia. Several of these families are currently living inside the churches of these towns. Ten to fifteen families with relations too elderly to flee remained in Kessab, their fate currently unknown.

Syrian troops did launch a counteroffensive, but al-Qaeda linked jihadis “once again entered the town of Kessab, took the remaining Armenian families hostage, desecrated the town’s three Armenian churches, pillaging local residences and occupying the town and surrounding villages.”

Reports further indicate that “the attacks of the al-Qaeda linked al-Nusra organization and the Islamic Front was supported with artillery fire from Turkish artillery units.  A Syrian MIG-23 war plane which attended to the operation towards the terror groups was shot down by Turkish Air Forces on 23 March.”

Bashar al-Assad naturally denounced before the United Nations Turkey’s role in supporting terrorists—even as some European leaders, such as Denmark’s Prime Minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt, were busy praising Turkey for its supposedly increased democracy and human rights,  supporting the Islamic nation’s inclusion into the European Union, indifferent to the fact that Erdogan banned Twitter in Turkey after tweets exposed his government’s corruptions.

Read more at Front Page

 

Al Qaeda veteran appears in Al Nusrah Front video, criticizes rival

Abu Firas al Suri, a senior al Qaeda operative, was sent to Syria from Yemen in 2013. According to the Al Nusrah Front, Al Suri served as an "envoy" for Osama bin Laden and helped establish Lashkar-e-Taiba. The picture above is from an Al Nusrah Front video.

Abu Firas al Suri, a senior al Qaeda operative, was sent to Syria from Yemen in 2013. According to the Al Nusrah Front, Al Suri served as an “envoy” for Osama bin Laden and helped establish Lashkar-e-Taiba. The picture above is from an Al Nusrah Front video.

By THOMAS JOSCELYN:

A recently released video produced by the Al Nusrah Front features Abu Firas al Suri, an al Qaeda veteran who has waged jihad since the late 1970s. In his video debut, al Suri criticizes the Islamic State of Iraq and the Sham (ISIS), a jihadist group that has been disowned by al Qaeda’s senior leadership.

The Al Nusrah Front is al Qaeda’s official branch inside Syria and has been openly fighting ISIS both online and on the ground.

Abu Firas is one of the senior al Qaeda officials who was entrusted to mediate the dispute, but those efforts have failed.

“I was not intending to talk about the State (ISIS) and about its crimes against the Islamic ummah and against Islam,” Abu Firas says in the video, according to a translation obtained by The Long War Journal. However, an ISIS leader known as Abu Muhammad al Adnani recently accused Abu Abdallah al Shami, a Nusrah Front official, of “lying and slander.” Al Adnani also called for Allah to curse the lying party in the dispute, by which al Adnani meant the Al Nusrah Front.

Abu Firas says that al Adani’s speech, which was widely disseminated online, was “devastating” and therefore he had to respond.

Abu Firas addresses two issues in his response to ISIS: the assassination of al Qaeda’s top representative in Syria, known as Abu Khalid al Suri, and ISIS’ habit of declaring other Muslims to be apostates.

Shortly before Abu Khalid al Suri (whose real name was Mohamed Bahaiah) was killed, Abu Firas says the two met. Abu Khalid claimed to have had warnings about an impending attack on him by ISIS. “They put me on the black list and they want to assassinate me,” Abu Khalid said, according to Abu Firas’ account.

Abu Firas maintains that he warned Abu Khalid to take special precautions, but the attack was successful on Feb. 23, the day after they met. Although Abu Khalid had worked with Abu Firas to end the disagreement between ISIS and the Al Nusrah Front, all Abu Khalid did was earn ISIS’ enmity.

Another senior al Qaeda official in Syria, a Saudi known as Sanafi al Nasr, has made similar claims on his Twitter feed. Nasr has alleged that Abu Khalid al Suri warned him about ISIS’ threats just two weeks prior to the suicide bombing. [See LWJ report, Head of al Qaeda 'Victory Committee' in Syria.]

Given the similarity of their claims, it is likely that al Qaeda operatives inside Syria are coordinating their testimony against ISIS. By claiming that Abu Khalid al Suri warned of his own death beforehand, they are building the case against ISIS in jihadist minds.

Abu Firas also levels another charge against ISIS: that the group is “takfiri” because it declares other practicing Muslims apostates. Abu Firas says that when the Al Nusrah Front attempted to shelter ISIS fighters during a battle in northern Syria, an ungrateful ISIS commander complained that Al Nusrah raised its banner above an ISIS building in the process.

According to Abu Firas, this same ISIS leader also lashed out at Al Nusrah for accepting oaths of support from members of the Free Syrian Army. But Abu Firas claims that Al Nusrah was simply receiving pledges of support for jihad. Thus, the longtime al Qaeda ideologue says, ISIS is “takfiri” for denouncing acts that are consistent with the will of Allah.

Little known, but with an extensive biography

Little was publicly known about Abu Firas al Suri until his sudden appearance in the Al Nusrah Front video, which includes a summary of his biography.

According to Al Nusrah, Abu Firas went to military school and joined the Syrian military, but was relieved of his duties because of his “Islamic tendencies.” Abu Firas was a member of the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood and fought against the regime of Hafez al Assad, Bashar al Assad’s father, in 1979 and 1980.

Abu Firas traveled to Jordan and then Afghanistan, where he met with Abdullah Azzam and Osama bin Laden. He trained both Afghans and Arabs, as well as jihadists from other countries around the world, and worked to end the conflict between unidentified jihadist groups inside Afghanistan.

The Al Nusrah Front claims that Abu Firas served as Osama bin Laden’s “envoy” for “mobilizing Pakistanis for jihad.” The Pakistani jihadist group Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) was set up for this purpose, the Al Nusrah Front says. The LeT and another group “were established, trained, and funded by Osama Bin Ladin.”

Read more at Long War Journal

Also see:

Spain: Kebab Shops Financing Global Jihad

by Soeren Kern:

At least 2,000 European jihadists — many from Spain — have now travelled to Syria in the hopes of replacing the Assad regime with an Islamic state governed by Sharia law.

“Clearly Spain forms part of the strategic objectives of global jihad. We are not the only ones, but we are in their sights.” — Jorge Fernández Díaz, Minister of the Interior, Spain.

Police in Spain and Morocco have dismantled a jihadist network suspected of recruiting Islamic radicals in Europe and dispatching them to “hotbeds of tension” in Syria and other conflict zones.

Spanish officials say the cell, based in southern Spain, was one of the largest of its kind in Europe and responsible for recruiting more jihadists than any other network discovered in Spain so far.

The sting operation—in which seven suspected jihadists were arrested—was conducted on March 14, just three days after Spain marked the 10th anniversary of the 2004 Madrid train bombings that killed 191 people and wounded nearly 2,000.

Officials say the latest arrests demonstrate that Spain continues to be central to the ambitions of the global jihadist movement, which says it is committed to establishing a worldwide Caliphate.

Four of the suspects were arrested in Spain and the other three in Morocco. Of the suspects arrested in Spain, one was detained in the southern city of Málaga and the other three in Melilla, a Spanish exclave in North Africa. The three suspects arrested in Morocco had all recently returned from combat in Syria.

The suspected ringleader of the cell is a wheelchair-bound Spanish convert to Islam named Mustafa Maya Amaya. Maya, 51, was born in Brussels after his Spanish parents moved to Belgium in the 1960s to look for work there. After converting to Islam, he changed his given name from Rafael to Mustafa.

 

From left to right: Mustafa Maya Amaya, Paul Cadic and Farik Cheikh, three of the jihadists arrested by Spanish police. (Image source: Spanish Ministry of the Interior)

Maya eventually married a woman from Morocco, where he lived until December 2012, when he was arrested by Moroccan police for conspiring to overthrow the Moroccan monarchy and replace it with an Islamic government.

After escaping from prison in Morocco, Maya took refuge across the border in Melilla and became a naturalized Spanish citizen. Spanish counter-terrorism officials say Maya is well known for his advocacy of extremist Islam—he once told the Málaga-based newspaper Diario Sur that he supported the way the Taliban in Afghanistan treated women there—but that until now he had not been directly linked to terrorist activities.

Investigators say Maya—who maintained close ties to jihadist cells in Belgium, France, Indonesia, Libya, Mali, Morocco, Tunisia, Turkey and Syria—is suspected of recruiting dozens of volunteer jihadists on the Internet and, after a careful selection process, sending them to join terrorist organizations in the Middle East and North Africa.

Groups benefiting from Maya’s recruitment services include the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), an al-Qaeda splinter group active in Iraq and Syria, Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), a Sunni Muslim jihadist group committed to establishing an Islamic government in North Africa and parts of Spain, and the Al-Nusra Front, a branch of Al-Qaeda operating in Lebanon and Syria, where it is fighting against the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

Read more at Gatestone Institute

Dearborn Man Arrested Trying to Join Hizballah Fighters in Syria

From Lockerbie to 9/11: Iran is Let Off the Hook

timthumb (4)by Clare M. Lopez
Accuracy in Media
March 16, 2014

A documentary that aired 11 March 2014 on the Al-Jazeera America channel presented compelling new evidence that Iran and the Syrian-based Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Counsel (PFLP-GC) directed and carried out the bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 that crashed into Lockerbie, Scotland on 23 December 1988. “Lockerbie: What Really Happened?” presented formerly classified documents and never-before revealed accounts from two of the investigators in the case—American attorney Jessica De Grazia and her Scottish colleague, George Thompson—both of whom were part of the defense team for Abdelbaset al-Megrahi, the Libyan security official eventually convicted of planting the bomb.

Aware that Al-Jazeera America has its own agenda and that this story may just fit rather neatly into it this time, the evidence presented by credible sources nevertheless makes this documentary worth serious consideration. Other, especially U.S., media have tended rather consistently to pass over evidence of the Iranian regime’s long record of support for terrorism (both Shi’ite and Sunni), even when that support has involved American citizen deaths, as in the two cases presented here. This Al-Jazeera documentary diverges from that typical media coverage of Iran and so earns our attention.

In the documentary, De Grazia and Thompson discuss classified U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) cables they obtained and shared with Al-Jazeera, but never had the chance to present in court. Specifically, they document a March 1988 meeting in Malta among representatives of Hizballah, Iran, Libya, PFLP-GC, and Syria. According to a protected source who attended the gathering, this apparently disparate group found common cause in hatred for Israel and the U.S., and met to discuss general cooperation in targeting Americans and Israelis. The Iranians were willing to direct terror operations, but wanted both the fig leaf of deniability that proxies could provide as well as the demonstrated explosives expertise for which both Hizballah and PFLP-GC were known. Syria long has allowed PFLP-GC to keep its headquarters in Damascus.

The collaborative arrangement that began with that meeting in Malta received its first operational assignment shortly after the USS Vincennes mistakenly shot down an Iranian civilian airliner in the Persian Gulf on 3 July 1988, with the loss of all 290 on board. Although the U.S. insisted the tragedy was due to misidentification of the Iranian plane and ultimately paid more than $100 million in compensation, a high-level Iranian defector reported that the Iranian regime nevertheless decided to seek revenge in kind, and quickly, by shooting down a similar U.S. civilian aircraft with a like number of passengers on board.

Abolghassem Mesbahi ran operations for the Iranian Ministry of Intelligence and Security (MOIS) in Europe before he defected to Germany in the early 1990s. His testimony about Lockerbie is especially credible because he also has testified in other cases involving Iranian complicity in terror attacks, including the Paris assassination of former Iranian Prime Minister Shapour Bakhtiar in 1991, the 1992 Mykonos Cafe assassination of Kurdish leaders in Berlin, and the 1994 bombing of the Jewish cultural center in Buenos Aires. Mesbahi was one of three Iranian defector witnesses in the Havlish, et al. v. bin Laden, et al. legal case, in which Judge George Daniels of the Southern District of New York Federal District Court ruled in December 2011 that Iran and Hizballah “materially and directly supported al Qaeda in the September 11, 2001 attacks and are legally responsible for damages to hundreds of family members of 9/11 victims who are plaintiffs in the case.” (The author was an expert witness for the Havlish legal team and co-authored one of the affidavits, which is cited herein.)

Mesbahi’s original 1996-97 Lockerbie testimony (as well as his more recent contribution to this newer documentary) is further bolstered by striking parallels in his later recorded testimony in the Havlish case. As described to the Havlish legal team, the Iranian regime’s efforts to galvanize pan-Islamic unity to attack U.S. and Israeli interests did not begin with the 1988 meeting in Malta, but rather a couple of years earlier, in the mid-1980s, during the depths of the Iran-Iraq war. It was then that the plan known among Iranian intelligence circles as “Shaitan Dar Atash” (“Satan in the Flames” or “Satan in Hell,” meaning America, known as the “Great Satan,” in the flames). Because it was acknowledged that Iran lacked the military power to confront the U.S. directly, the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) and MOIS were tasked with devising asymmetric means to destroy America. According to Mesbahi, the IRGC and MOIS discussed ways of attacking the U.S. critical infrastructure (electric, fuel, water distribution, etc.) and using civilian aircraft as “bombs inside U.S. cities” such as New York and Washington, D.C. The ultimate intent was to bring down the U.S. economy.

Efforts to unify the Islamic world across Shi’ite-Sunni sectarian lines redoubled after Iran’s revolutionary leader, the Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, died in 1989. In the early 1990s, when Usama bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri were living under the protection of Sudan’s pan-Islamic Muslim Brotherhood leadership, President Omar al-Bashir and Hassan al-Turabi, his sometime political ally, organized a gathering of jihadist forces from across the Islamic world. The various Palestinian factions, including the PFLP-GC, plus Hizballah and the Iranian leadership all attended. It was in Khartoum that then-Iranian president Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani offered bin Laden the explosive expertise of Imad Mughniyeh, his top Hizballah terror operative. That is the partnership, which endures to this day, that led eventually to the attacks of September 11, 2001.

In the wake of the July 1988 shoot-down of Iran Air flight 655, Iranian planners turned to PFLP-GC operatives who had made a name for themselves with several prior airliner attacks. According to De Grazia and Thompson, the DIA documents identify four PFLP-GC members who were involved in the Lockerbie plot: Ahmed Jibril, the PFLP-GC leader who possibly masterminded the attack; Hafez Dalkomoni, who led the German-based PFLP-GC cell suspected of involvement; Marwan Khreesat, a Jordanian master bomb-maker who may have made the bomb used on Pan Am Flight 103; and Abu Talb, the Egyptian-born leader of PFLP-GC’s Swedish cell, who is suspected of having couriered the Lockerbie bomb. German security forces were monitoring the Dalkomoni cell and arrested both him and Khreesat in October 1988, but a bomb found in Dalkomoni’s car was an exact match for the one that later brought down the Pan Am airplane. Both bombs were covered in Toblerone chocolate candy wrappers and concealed inside a Toshiba cassette player. Other bombs were discovered in Dalkomoni’s apartment, but the Germans recovered only a total of four out of five of the bombs they knew existed. The fifth exploded over Lockerbie, Scotland on December 23rd.

By the following summer of 1989, the British and Scottish investigators were ready to issue arrest warrants for fifteen PFLP-GC members they had identified as connected with the attack. According to investigators De Grazia and Thompson, the case was for all intents and purposes solved; all involved with it (including American, British, German, and Scottish intelligence and security representatives) were in agreement that the PFLP-GC had carried out the attack on orders from the Iranian regime.

And then, sometime in mid-1989, according to former CIA operative Robert Baer, President George H.W. Bush made a phone call to British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and asked her to back off the case against PFLP-GC. In the Al-Jazeera America film, Baer claims that the U.S. government made an executive decision that the role played by the PFLP-GC (and by extension, its sponsors in Damascus and Tehran) would be quietly submerged and instead, the Libyans would be made the sole scapegoats. After that, the Lockerbie prosecution went after Megrahi and the Libyans, eventually convicting Megrahi, who spent eight years in a Scottish prison before being released on humanitarian grounds, dying in 2012 of cancer.

It is difficult to know why U.S. leadership decided to protect the PFLP-GC and Iranian regime, when all the investigative work had been done and all the evidence pointed strongly at their responsibility for the Lockerbie bombing. Gathering tensions with Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein over his Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD) programs and the perceived need for Syrian support and, at a minimum, a pledge of non-interference from Iran may have been part of it. In the final analysis, though, Iran still has not been held to account: not for the murder of 270 people, mostly Americans headed home for Christmas, over Lockerbie, Scotland, and not for the nearly 3,000 killed on 11 September 2001. It is time that Iran is brought to account for its crimes against humanity.

Muslim families begging anti-terror police to arrest their sons and prevent them from joining jihadists in Syria

  • London force reveals large rise in arrests of world-be jihadists in 2014
  • Focus on more ‘sensitive’ and ‘less macho’ approach to anti-terrorism
  • Assistant Commissioner reveals better public and police co-operation
Changes: Assistant Commissioner Cressida Dick said that anti-terrorist policing was seen a decade ago as 'the macho end of a macho organisation'

Changes: Assistant Commissioner Cressida Dick said that anti-terrorist policing was seen a decade ago as ‘the macho end of a macho organisation’

Muslim families in Britain are reporting their sons and brothers to police if they fear they will leave to fight in Syria, it was revealed today.

Scotland Yard has announced a large increase in arrests of world-be jihadists this year as it embarks on a more ‘sensitive’ and ‘less macho’ approach to fighting terrorism.

The London force says families, officers and community leaders are working better together – and this is being partly put down to an all-female leadership in Britain’s anti-terrorist police team.

More Syria-related arrests have happened since the start of 2014 than in all 2013, which police say is down to parents who would rather their sons were arrested in Britain than killed fighting.

Metropolitan Police Assistant Commissioner Cressida Dick told The Times: ‘We’re getting lots of support from families who are ringing up and saying they are worried about their brother, son, sister sometimes, friend or indeed from other sources of information and intelligence.

‘We [have] certainly got a lot more information and a lot more concerned people.

‘We want to increase the proportion of people that would contact us, but we are getting a lot of calls for help.’

Miss Dick – Britain’s most senior woman officer – has two female deputies in Helen Ball, national co-ordinator of anti-terror investigations and Patricia Gallan, head of security and protection.

Read more at Daily Mail

9/11 recruiter reportedly freed in Syria

Mohammed Zammar. Photograph from Spiegel.

Mohammed Zammar. Photograph from Spiegel.

By THOMAS JOSCELYN:

Mohammed Zammar, the al Qaeda operative responsible for recruiting the suicide-hijack pilots for the 9/11 attacks, has reportedly been freed inside Syria.

Zammar’s freedom was reported by Zaid Benjamin, the Washington correspondent for Radio Sawaon his Twitter feed on Mar. 2.

Writing for Al-Monitor, John Rosenthal cited multiple sources confirming Zammar’s freedom in an account published on Mar. 10.

Zammar was captured in Morocco in late 2001. Unlike most of the 9/11 co-conspirators who were captured, however, Zammar was not transferred to US custody. Instead, he was sent to Syria, where he was imprisoned by Bashar al Assad’s regime.

Zammar, who was freed in late 2013, was exchanged for Syrian army officers who were being held by jihadist forces. The exchange of prisoners was reportedly negotiated by Ahrar al Sham, an al Qaeda-linked group that frequently fights alongside the Al Nusrah Front, al Qaeda’s official branch in Syria. The Ahrar al Sham is a major constituent of the Islamic Front, a coalition of seven large Islamist fighting groups in the country.

The Long War Journal reported on Dec. 17, 2013 that a longtime senior al Qaeda operative known as Abu Khalid al Suri was a founding member of, and senior leader in, Ahrar al Sham. Al Suri was killed by a suicide bomber in late February. Other al Qaeda operatives continue to serve in leadership roles within Ahrar al Sham, US intelligence officials have told The Long War Journal.

9/11 recruiter

Both the “Joint Inquiry Into the Terrorist Attacks of September 11, 2001,” a report prepared by the House and Senate Intelligence Committees, and the 9/11 Commission documented Zammar’s role as the recruiter for al Qaeda’s Hamburg cell. The cell included the terrorists who would go on to serve as the pilots aboard the hijacked planes on 9/11.

Read more at Long War Journal

Al-Qaeda’s invasion of Syria

USalliesSyriaWalid Shoebat:

Powerful documentary made by Vice News that exposes what we have been relaying on Syria for many months. The take over of “rebel” held positions in Syria by people indoctrinated with Nazi-style propaganda by al-Qaeda.

U.S. State Department Policy Facilitates Al Qaeda in Somalia, Syria

female syrian rebelBY TAREK FATAH:

Just when you thought amateur hour had run its full course at the U.S. State Department, events in Somalia and Syria — two war zones where al-Qaida is a major player — show American ineptness has a lot more to offer.

First, came news the man hand-picked by Secretary of State John Kerry to act as the sole conduit for aid to Syria’s rebels, Gen. Salim Idriss, has been dismissed by the very Supreme Military Council of the Syrian “moderate” opposition he was supposedly heading.

Now, with no leverage on the ground, it appears the U.S. has given a walkover to whoever wins the Iran vs. Saudi Arabia proxy war in Syria.

With an insurgency that’s dominated by Islamist factions, including groups with connections to al-Qaida, even the best outcome will leave Syria in the hands of hostiles.

Further south in Somalia, the government that is supposedly an ally of the West has been accused of smuggling Western-supplied arms meant for the Somali army straight into the hands of the pro al-Qaida army of al-Shabab .

The “UN Somalia and Eritrea Monitoring Group” last week issued a confidential report accusing the Somalia government of allowing the diversion of weapons meant for its own army into the hands of a leader of the al-Qaida linked Islamist militant group, al-Shabab.

Read more at Clarion Project

Los Angeles Gang Members Fight In Syria Alongside Pro-Hizbullah, Pro-Assad Forces

18436MEMRI: Videos and images that surfaced recently show members of Los Angeles gangs fighting in Syria alongside pro-Hizbullah and pro-Assad forces. Two gang members, “Creeper,” from the G’d Up-13 gang and “Wino,” from the Westside Armenian Power gang, filmed themselves shooting AK-47s and boasting of being on the “front lines.” Wino, aka “Wino Ayee Peeyakan,” whose real name is Nerses Kilajyan, uploaded the images and videos to his Facebook profile.[1]

The images on Wino’s Facebook page include multiple photos of him brandishing weapons; in one he is seen standing beside a Hizbullah operative, and in another he himself is wearing Hizbullah garb. Creeper is photographed and filmed alongside Wino in multiple photos and videos posted on the page.

Judging by the photos, Wino seems to have been fighting in Syria since December 2012. Comments by Wino’s Facebook friends suggest that the two were deported from the U.S. due to their involvement in criminal activity.  

Jihadi Group in Syria Amputates Alleged Thief’s Hand

hand amputationClarion Project:

In the first of its kind, a hard-line Islamist group vying for power in Syria, live “tweeted” the amputation of an accused thief’s hand on Twitter.

The gruesome photos released by the group ISIS (the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant) on a live internet feed came in a series: The first one showed a blind-folded man being held next to a table with one man dressed in a traditional white robe reading a statement. Standing next to him is a man in a traditional black balaclava holding a large sword.

The second shot shows the man being retrained while the sword comes down on his hand. The last shot shows the man looking like he has fainted with his severed hand lying bloodied on the table.

ISI claimed that the man asked for the punishment “in order to cleanse his sins.”

Twitter subsequently suspended the account from its website.

ISIS, an outgrowth of the Al Qaeda-linked ISI (Islamic State in Iraq) was formed in Iraq nearly a year ago but was disowned by Al Qaeda Feb. 3 for being too extreme. The group, composed of mainly foreign jihadis, has become a major player in the war against Syrian President Bashar Al Assad.

After gaining control of Raqqa in northern Syria, ISIS recently imposed dhimma status (second-class) status on the Christian population according to sharia law in exchange for protection. According to ISIS, 20 Christian leaders accepted the terms, which were: payment of 17 kilos of gold as jizya [tax on non-Muslims], refraining from any public expression of Christianity and no renovation of churches, ringing church bells or Christian prayer in public. ISIS also forbade Christians to possess weapons and to sell pork or alcohol to Muslims.

In related news, ISIS agreed to withdraw from the border town of Azaz in northern Syria on Friday, handing the city over to the Free Syrian Army. The first-time-ever retreat followed a threat by a rival jihadi group, the Al-Nusra Front, who demanded that ISIS leave Syria.

“I swear by God, if you again refuse God’s judgment, and do not stop your plague and pushing your ignorant ideology on the Muslim nation then you will be expelled, even from Iraq,” Abu Mohammed al-Jolani, head of Al-Nusra Front, is quoted as saying said in an internet message.

Residents had reported that a 16-year-old commander of ISIS had ruled the town with strict sharia law.

Syrian troops, Hezbollah fighters kill foreign jihadists in ambush

syrian-force-with-hezbollah-fighters-kill-175-insurgentsLWJ, By BILL ROGGIO February 26, 2014

The Syrian military and its ally Hezbollah killed more than 170 Islamists from the Al Nusrah Front for the People of the Levant, al Qaeda’s branch in Syria, and the Islamic Front during an ambush in an area just outside of the capital of Damascus. “Saudis, Qataris, and Chechens” were among those killed, according to the government-owned news agency.

“A military source said that an army unit eliminated scores of terrorists of ‘Jabhat al Nusrah’ and the so-called “Islam battalion” according to intelligence information in an ambush in the Eastern Ghouta in Damascus Countryside,” the state-run Syrian Arab News Agency, or SANA, reported.

An estimated “175 terrorists were killed” and “most of them [were] Saudis, Qataris, and Chechens.” according to SANA.

The SANA report was corroborated by the independent Syrian Observatory for Human Rights as well as Al Manar, a news outlet run by Hezbollah.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported that “no less than 70 fighters from Islamic battalions, were killed by an ambush by Hezbollah and regime forces, between the towns of Al-Eteba and Myda’a in the eastern Ghouta.” An additional 89 fighters were separated from the main group and “they may have been killed [in] the ambush.”

The Observatory often uses the term “Islamic battalions” to describe the Islamic Front, the coalition of six major Islamist brigades that was formed late last year and is allied with the Al Nusrah Front. Abu Khalid al Suri, a senior Islamic Front leader who was killed last weekend, served as Ayman al Zawahiri’s personal representative for Syria.

Al Manar reported that “up to 170 terrorist militants, including foreigners” were killed “through a perfect ambush” by the Syrian military. Al Manar did not report on Hezbollah involvement in the attack.

Foreign fighters often join with Al Nusrah or the rival Islamic State of Iraq and the Sham, but also are known to fight in the brigades of the Islamic Front.

Chechens fight within the ranks of the Muhajireen Army, which has split into two factions. One faction fights for Al Nusrah, and another fights for the ISIS. Saifullah al Shishani, a Chechen commander who led a large unit in Al Nusrah, was killed by the Syrian military in early February during fighting in Aleppo.